Planet Jedward: It’s a place where Sam Walton would gladly live if he could.


On the 7th December last year, the teen pop duo Jedward met Sir Paul McCartney backstage at rehearsals for that weekend’s X-Factor show. Ever the keen documenters of modern life, they asked an associate to take a picture of them with the former Beatle, and shared it with the world via their Twitter account. The picture is a cheery snap: John and Edward, in bright blue suits, matching ties and trademark upright bottle-blond hair, flank Macca, clearly accustomed to posing for photos with fans. All three are mugging obligingly at the camera.

It’s the kind of photograph that, under usual circumstances, one party will cherish for the rest of his/her life, and the other – erstwhile Beatle, biggest-selling musician ever, inventor of the album as we know it and pioneer of popular song as a cultural force – will shrug off merrily enough. One might’ve assumed this to be case here, too, until you read the caption that Jedward appended to the photo. Some appreciation of McCartney’s contribution to the industry in which Jedward find themselves? Or an acknowledgement of the grip that Sir Paul once held on the nation’s youth, the same grip to which Jedward also aspire? Or even a simple “us with Paul McCartney”, perhaps revealing what the man who wrote ‘Yesterday’, ‘Penny Lane’ and ‘Let It Be’ is really like? No, nothing so banal. Instead, the caption read, precisely, “When we met Paul mccartney our hair was really cool what why do you like our hair?” – to which, no words.

And it is for exactly this sort of behaviour that I love Jedward. They are not disrespectful, they are not self-involved, they are not truculent or posturing – but neither do they feel intimidated by the presence of greatness, appear to experience nervousness before performing or worry about how they come across. They don’t simply overcome these things, but instead exist in a world devoid of them, working on a do-first-don’t-even-think-later basis that exposes their endlessly charming personalities in hilarious ways, highlights their frequently Dadaist observations (“we’re in a wardrobe”, read one recent tweet, simply and perfectly) and showcases their downright joy at the world around them. It’s a glorious life to behold.

Even more enchantingly, it seems they were always thus – this wide-eyed gawping at the wonders of the world is the real deal, not some folksy appropriation. Their origins are as Simon Cowell’s court jesters, preserved by the public on the 2009 series of X-Factor for far longer than their talent deserved, despite and defiantly because of the judges’ protestations. Their appearance on the nation’s TVs for all but three episodes of that series was a collective demonstration of irony on behalf of the audience – a knowing wink to the puppeteers that says we’re enjoying the charade, but we’re not all fooled – but that irony was ours, not theirs. Where the following year’s Wagner or Strictly Come Dancing’s John Sergeant were absolutely in on the joke, the beautiful thing about Jedward is that there is no plausible way that they can be.

It has been suggested that their manic and wild love of everything, immunity to any criticism or self-reflection and utterly extraordinary tweets (all of which, brilliantly, are addressed as “we”, never specifying which one is which) is actually the work of a comedy situationist like Chris Morris, subverting the pop landscape with a creation that represents everything its over-earnest, mega-controlling curators should loathe. But in reality, it would be impossible to keep up that act in the manner Jedward do, perform it with such is-it-isn’t-it consistency and yet remain so likeable. More likely, here are a couple of boys having the time of their lives, blissfully unaware of even the concept of irony, taking everything at face value for lack of any good reason not to – and consequently achieving a far purer subversive hit. Operating in a pop world where cynicism and micromanagement rule the roost, their delight at sharing everything about their gambolling, surreal, mad mad mad mad life, from the mundane to the glamorous, is gorgeous. They are hedonists stripped of the greed, competitiveness or self-destruction most possess, and their greatest gift is to allow the rest of us a peak through that prism.

But what of their music, ask the naysayers – they are, after all, nominally musicians. Who cares? Jedward certainly don’t. I have never heard a note of it, beyond their cartwheeling “covers” of ‘Ice Ice Baby’ and the Ghostbusters theme (themselves no more than dance routines, the kind of which toddlers improvise with untrammelled glee), and nor have I any desire to. To assess Jedward seriously at any level is to totally miss the point of their appeal; the minute you compare their behaviour to other things, you remove their most attractive quality: obliviousness. In a world of unmediated celebrity and constant bickering and clamour for attention, here is an oasis of antediluvian innocence, a simple life where tweets like “Good Morning Good Nights its always a good time!” don’t read like cruddy life-coach claptrap, but as an expression of the genuine, visceral thrill felt by simply being alive – something which they appear to savour constantly.

They are naturally hilarious, utterly impossible to criticise and live life with a chutzpah and zest that most of us would kill for. Wouldn’t everyone want their lives to be a little more like that? Being Jedward for the day would surely be the greatest transcendence of all.

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